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Rangers GM discusses ‘error’ that led to dealing Adrian Gonzalez

04.02.11 at 8:47 am ET
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jon Daniels had an eventful first winter as GM of the Rangers when he took over control of the club’s baseball operations following the 2005 season. He unloaded Alfonso Soriano, acquired Vicente Padilla and made a couple of additional minor moves.

But there is unquestionably one trade that, more than five years later, he regrets. In December of 2005, he agreed to a trade (which was officially announced on Jan. 6, 2006) that sent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Terrmel Sledge and pitcher Chris Young to the Padres in exchange for pitcher Adam Eaton and reliever Akinori Otsuka.

It was a move meant to bolster the short-term playoff hopes of the club. The Rangers had emerged as surprise contenders in 2004, when they went 89-73. They followed that by going 79-83 in the 2005 campaign.

Still, the team thought that if it could acquire some quality pitching, it had a shot of competing in an AL West division that did not feature any juggernauts. The Rangers had what most viewed as one of the best young position playing cores in the game, led by an infield that featured first baseman Mark Teixeira, shortstop Michael Young and third baseman Hank Blalock.

Gonzalez (whom the Rangers had acquired in a deal with the Marlins in 2003) was seemingly blocked at first by Teixeira. Though the young prospect — who served primarily as a DH while with the Rangers in 2005, in deference to Teixeira’s entrenched position at first — was open to playing the outfield, most in the industry expected that Texas would be forced to trade him.

And to a degree, they were right. The Rangers concluded that his greatest value to them was likely as a trade chip.

“I know that at the time, when Mark Teixeira was here, it led to a lot of clubs making an assumption that we would trade him, that we wouldn’€™t be able to keep both of them. We did get some inquiries on him [prior to the San Diego trade,” said Daniels. “We didn’€™t obviously project him to be the superstar that he’€™s become. Clearly, had we known that, we would have found a way to make it work. But we thought he was going to be a good player. At a young age, he was always a guy we thought would hit. The question was how much power. He’€™s matured into one of the better power hitters in the game, clearly.”

That said, while the Rangers did not anticipate that Gonzalez would become a perennial 30-plus home run hitter (and one can only imagine what sort of damage he might have done over the past five years had he been in the homer haven of Arlington rather than the power-sapping Petco Park), Daniels insists that their projection of Gonzalez was not their only, or even their biggest, mistake in making the deal with the Padres.

“Our error in that was not so much our evaluation of Adrian,” said Daniels. “Our biggest miss in that situation was really our evaluation of our club, where we were competitively and in the division. We thought that there was a window there in ‘€™05-‘€™06 to really push. We won 89 games [in 2004], were a .500 club in ‘€™05, hadn’€™t made too many changes. Our [front office] group came in in ‘€™05. We probably tried to step on the gas before we were ready. Not probably ‘€“ we did.”

Mindful of such lessons, the reigning American League champions — who will have a ring ceremony prior to Saturday’s game — proceeded with caution this offseason. The team explored potential trades for pitching — checking in on such talents as Matt Garza and Zack Greinke after Cliff Lee passed on Texas’ offer to re-sign in favor of a return to the Phillies — but in the end, they drew the line in negotiations as a means of maintaining their short- and long-term aspirations. As such, the team’s biggest move of the offseason was the signing of Adrian Beltre, a player whom the Rangers hope will benefit their run scoring and run prevention while having kept their farm system intact.

“We think we had a good nucleus and wanted to add to it, make another run at it,” said Daniels. “We had some opportunities to bring in some great players on short-term moves that didn’€™t really fit for us on what we were trying to do. We always try to find that balance between now and the next few years. We’€™ll see how it plays out, but we didn’€™t want to shoot ourselves in the foot and go 100 percent, all in. We wanted to find that balance. That’€™s our model.”

Though the Rangers were the team that reached the World Series and the Red Sox missed the playoffs last year, it is the Sox who are being viewed as the clear consensus favorite in the American League. Yet Daniels has no problem with that fact. To the contrary, he sees in Boston a template of what he hopes the Rangers will become in the coming years — perhaps, in part, by harnessing rather than parting with players such as Gonzalez.

“To me, [the Red Sox' status as favorites] is the way it should be. Boston’€™s been there year-in, year-out. They’€™ve got a track record. They’€™ve got two rings. They made some very good moves, impactful moves that fit their club,” said Daniels. “Last year is last year. I know that’€™s a little cliché to say it, but that’€™s truth. Nothing is guaranteed.

The way I know our guys are looking at it is that they need to go out and prove themselves all over again. We won 87 or so games in ‘€™09, we won the division last year. The hope is that this is a window of opportunity we can capitalize upon, but there are a lot of clubs that have looked to do just that and haven’€™t been able to accomplish it. To me, what Boston has done over the last decade is something kind of special, kind of unique. They’€™re in there year-in, year-out. That’€™s what we’€™re striving to be ‘€“ not be grouped with also-successful clubs that don’€™t get back there.”

Read More: adam eaton, adrian gonzalez, akinori otsuka, jon daniels
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